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Surveys for 
Animal Species of Concern 
in Northwestern Montana 

Prepared for: 

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks 
State Wildlife Grants Program 
Helena, Montana 

Compiled By: 
Paul Hendricks 

Montana Natural Heritage Program 

Natural Resource Information System 

Montana State Library 

May 2005 


Natural Heritage 

Surveys for Animal Species of Concern 
in Northwestern Montana 

Prepared for: 

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks 

State Wildlife Grants Program 

Helena, Montana 

Compiled By: 
Paul Hendricks 

Montana Natural Heritage Program 

Natural Resource Information System 

Montana State Library 

May 2005 

© 2005 Montana Natural Heritage Program 

P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East Sixth Avenue, Helena, MT 59620-1800, 406-444-3655 

This document should be cited as follows: 

Hendricks, P., Compiler. 2005. Surveys for Animal Species of Concern in Northwestern 
Montana. Report to Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, State Wildlife Grants 
Program, Helena, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 53 pp. 


From late summer 2003 through autumn of 
2004, surveys for a diversity of Animal 
Species of Concern in western Montana were 
made possible by a grant from the State 
Wildlife Grants Program administered by 
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and 
Parks (MTFWP). Included were stream 
surveys for the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus 
histrionicus), waterfall surveys for nesting 
Black Swift (Cypseloides niger), seepage and 
stream surveys for Coeur d' Alene 
Salamander (Plethodon idahoensis), surveys 
in cedar-hemlock-grand fir forests for rare 
terrestrial mollusks (snails and slugs), and 
surveys for forest owls and rare terrestrial 
mollusks on Plum Creek Timber Company 

Surveys for Harlequin Ducks were conducted 
on 22 streams in eight drainage systems, and 
ducks were found on seven streams in five 
drainage systems. Twenty individuals were 
captured and banded. Numbers of pairs and 
broods on 5 streams in the Lower Clark Fork 
drainage were at or below minimums 
documented during the prior eight-year 
period (1992-1999) of monitoring. However, 
numbers of pairs and/or broods on other 
surveyed streams were at or above average. 
Streams of the Lower Clark Fork drainage 
may experience more extreme responses in 
stream flows to on-going drought relative to 
some other streams, such as Upper 
McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park. 

Surveys of 32 potential Black Swift nesting 
sites (water falls) in northwestern Montana 
represented the first organized nesting survey 
for this species in the state. Only two nesting 
sites were known at the time of the surveys; 
nesting was confirmed at one of these (South 
Fork Mission Creek), and one new site was 
found on Haystack Creek in Glacier National 
Park. The numbers of swifts visiting these 
falls do not account for numbers seen 

annually across the state, indicating that more 
breeding sites await discovery. 

Eight historical Coeur d' Alene Salamander 
sites were visited one or more times in 2004; 
only one of these sites had been checked 
since 1995. Salamanders were found at five 
sites, all with surface water flow at the time 
of the visit; the other three sites were dry at 
the time of the visit (early September). 
Continued presence of Coeur d' Alene 
Salamanders at all sites with surface water 
flow suggests that this species probably 
persists at most or all of the previously 
documented locations in Montana. 

Surveys for globally rare mollusks associated 
with cedar-hemlock-grand fir forests were 
conducted concurrent with salamander 
surveys. Five species (Polygyrella 
polygyrella, Radiodiscus abietum, 
Magnipelta mycophaga, Hemphillia danielsi, 
Prophysaon humile), documented in 
Montana at 1-13 locations each as of 2003, 
were found at ten total locations, nine of 
which were new. This vulnerable forest 
habitat deserves special protection to 
conserve the suite of associated rare mollusk 

Forest Owl surveys on Plum Creek lands in 
three areas of ponderosa pine-dominated 
forest resulted in detection of four species, 
including a nest of Great Gray Owl (Strix 
nebulosa)\ no Flammulated Owls (Otus 
flammeolus) were detected. Two species of 
globally rare mollusks {Magnipelta 
mycophaga, Oreohelix elrodi) were found at 
one site each during invertebrate surveys; the 
Magnipelta location in Flathead County was 
new, one of only 13 documented for 


Abstract 1 

Introduction 5 

Section 1. Harlequin Duck Surveys 7 

Section 2. Black Swift Surveys 17 

Section 3. Coeur d'Alene Salamander Surveys 31 

Section 4. Terrestrial Mollusk Surveys 37 

Section 5. Plum Creek Owl and Mollusk Surveys 45 


An initial step to evaluating the status and 
conservation needs of animal Species of 
Concern in Montana is to document their 
distributions and habitat associations. Status 
of the species addressed in this document is 
unknown or incomplete, and sometimes 
based on data that is old. Initial surveys have 
been conducted for some species, such as 
Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), 
Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus), and 
Coeur d' Alene Salamander (Plethodon 
idahoensis). However, continued 
monitoring and additional surveys of these 
species have not always occurred and past 
efforts are in jeopardy of being wasted 
because of a lack of follow-up inventory and 
monitoring. For other species, such as 
Black Swift (Cypseloides niger), no prior 
organized survey effort in Montana has ever 
occurred. And invertebrates continue to 
receive relatively little attention, even 
though they comprise the greatest division 
of animal biodiversity in Montana; even the 
invertebrate species recognized as globally 
rare have distributions and habitat 
associations in Montana that are incomplete 
and poorly understood. 

The impetus for this blanket project was to 
document the distribution and habitat 
associations of a variety of animal Species 
of Concern in western Montana and to better 
define the range of these species in the state. 
The data gathered help provide managers 
information they need to assess the effects 
of management activities on a broader range 
of animals of conservation concern, and also 

provide information to help establish 
priorities for the Comprehensive State 
Wildlife Plan. The results of this project 
thus add to information needed for effective 
long-term conservation of the target species. 

This document contains five separate reports 
("Sections") on Animal Species of Concern 
in western Montana. These individual 
projects were designed to address gaps in 
our knowledge about forest- inhabiting 
species. Targeted species of conservation 
interest included Harlequin Duck (G4, S2B), 
Black Swift (G4, S3B), Flammulated Owl 
(G4, S3B), Coeur d' Alene Salamander (G4, 
S2), and a suite of globally rare terrestrial 
mollusks (all ranked between Gl, SI and 

Funding for this project was provided to the 
Montana Natural Heritage Program by the 
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, & 
Parks through the State Wildlife Grants 
Program. The State Wildlife Grants (SWG) 
program was created by congressionally 
appropriated funds to assist states in the 
development and implementation of 
programs that benefit wildlife and their 
habitats. Field results from all surveys have 
been incorporated into the Point Observation 
Database (POD) and the Montana Natural 
Heritage Program's Biotics 4 conservation 
information data system. Updated location 
and natural history information are available 
through the MTNHP web site. 



Harlequin Duck Surveys in Northwestern Montana: 2003-2004 

Paul Hendricks 
Montana Natural Heritage Program 


The Harlequin Duck {Histrionicus 
histrionicus) is a small sea duck, which 
travels inland to breed on fresh water 
streams (Robertson and Goudie 1999). 
Approximately 150-200 pairs of Harlequins 
currently breed in Montana (Reichel et al. 
1997), with most located in the following 
areas: 1) tributaries of the lower Clark Fork 
River; 2) tributaries of the North, Middle, 
and South Forks of the Flathead River; 3) 
streams coming off the east front of the 
Rocky Mountains; and 4) the Boulder River. 

Most ducks arrive on their inland breeding 
areas in mid- April to early-May; unmated 
males typically arrive before pairs (Kuchel 
1977). The males return to the coast shortly 
after the females begin incubation; most are 
gone by early July (Kuchel 1977). The 
females and young remain on the streams 
until August or early September. This 
chronology is influenced by elevation and 
by the timing of spring runoff; it may vary 
up to several weeks between years. 

The Harlequin Duck is listed as "Sensitive" 
by the U.S. Forest Service, Region 1 and as 
an Animal Species of Concern by the 
Montana Natural Heritage Program and 
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, & 
Parks (Montana Natural Heritage Program 

The Montana Natural Heritage Program 
began banding Harlequin Ducks to a limited 
extent in 1991. Through 1999, a total of 391 
Harlequin Ducks were marked on 9 streams, 
representing the largest marked "population" 
from the breeding streams (Hendricks 2000). 
Birds marked in Montana have subsequently 

been captured and observed on the coasts of 
Alaska, Oregon, Washington and British 
Columbia, with most reports coming from 
the Vancouver Island area (Reichel et al. 
1997, Hendricks 2000). 

Objectives for the 2003-2004 seasons 
included 1) surveying the Lower Clark Fork 
streams (Rock Creek, Marten Creek, South 
Fork Marten Creek, Swamp Creek, 
Vermilion River) of Sanders County for 
presence and status of Harlequin Ducks, 2) 
gathering duck productivity data on the 
Lower Clark Fork streams, 3) marking as 
many individuals as feasible on these 
streams for long-term monitoring, 4) 
surveying McDonald Creek in Glacier 
National Park, the only other population in 
Montana with survey data comparable to the 
Lower Clark Fork population, and 5) 
surveying a total of 20 streams in the 
northwestern region of Montana for 
Harlequin Duck presence and productivity, 
to obtain a better picture of current status in 
this area. 

This report summarizes the results of the 
2003-2004 surveys. For a recent and 
relatively comprehensive summary of 
Harlequin Duck research in Montana 
through 1999 see Hendricks (2000). 


As part of a regional survey of Harlequin 
Ducks in northwestern Montana during 
2003-2004, Heritage zoologists, with 
support and assistance from NPS personnel 
and others (see Acknowledgments), 
conducted May pair surveys and late-July 

and August brood surveys in the Lower 
Clark Fork set of streams and in Glacier 
National Park, with special attention to 
Upper McDonald Creek. Also in Glacier 
National Park, pair surveys were conducted 
on Fish and Fern creeks near the southwest 
end of McDonald Lake, and brood surveys 
on upper St. Mary River, and Reynolds and 
Paradise creeks east of Logan Pass. 
Elsewhere, brood surveys were conducted 
on an additional 12 streams in the Middle 
Clark Fork River, South, Middle, and North 
Fork Flathead River, Stillwater River 
(north), and North Fork Blackfoot River 
drainages (Table 1). 

Surveys were conducted by walking the 
stream channel (when possible) or stream 
bank. In most cases, the surveyor walked 
upstream, giving more time to observe the 
bird before it moved out of sight; in cases 
where birds were not to be marked, the 
surveyor made a loop around the birds to 
minimize disturbance. We attempted to 
capture and mark all birds seen when a 
licensed, qualified bird bander was present 
on the survey, and when the conditions were 
considered safe for banding. Park personnel 
monitored Upper McDonald Creek between 
McDonald Lake and Logan Creek both 
before and after Heritage personnel 
participated in pair and brood surveys in 
2004 (see Richards and Edmonds 2004). 

Captured birds were sexed, aged, weighed, 
measured (wing chord and tail), marked, and 
released. Juveniles were aged based on 
feather development: Class IA-C: downy (1- 
14 days old), no feathers visible; Class IIA- 
C: partly feathered (15-35 days old); Class 
III: fully feathered but flightless (36-51 days 
old). Each captured bird was banded with a 
USFWS aluminum band and a blue plastic 
leg band with 2 white alpha-alpha 
(juveniles) or alpha-numeric (adults) 
characters. Thus birds are individually 
recognizable by the imprinted characters on 
their bands. Dates, locations, distance 
surveyed, and general characteristics of the 

stream reaches surveyed were recorded; 
location, number, age, and sex of all 
Harlequin Ducks seen were recorded, as 
were habitat characteristics of the sites 
where ducks were first observed. All 
surveys and duck observations were entered 
into the Heritage Biotics database. 


Surveys in 2003-2004 were conducted in 
eight "drainage systems" as delimited in 
Reichel et al. (1997); Harlequin Ducks were 
observed in five of these (Table 1). Only 
brood surveys were conducted on surveyed 
streams in 2003, whereas in 2004 both pair 
and brood surveys were conducted on two 
focal drainages (Lower Clark Fork and 
Upper McDonald Creek), in addition to 
brood surveys on other streams. Only Fish 
and Fern creeks (Glacier National Park) 
experienced pair surveys with no brood 
surveys in 2004. 

In 2003, Harlequin Ducks were observed 
during brood season in the Lower Clark 
Fork drainage (one brood of 2) and South 
Fork Flathead River drainage (three broods 
of 6, 5, and 5 young and their hens; two 
single females). In 2004, ducks were seen 
during pair season in the Lower Clark Fork 
drainage (one pair, but at least two more 
pairs missed) and Glacier National Park (11 
pairs and 10 males). During brood season, 
ducks were seen in the Lower Clark Fork 
drainage (two broods of 4 and 6 young plus 
their hens), Glacier National Park (four 
broods of 3, 3, 5, and 7 young plus three 
hens; a fifth brood was reported), North 
Fork Flathead River (two broods of 4 and 5 
young plus their hens), and North Fork 
Blackfoot River (one brood of 8 young plus 
their hen). Results of surveys in each 
drainage system are summarized below. 

Lower Clark Fork : Five streams of this 
drainage were surveyed three times: South 
Fork Marten Creek, Marten Creek, Rock 
Creek, Swamp Creek, and Vermilion River. 


Segments surveyed were those covered on 
previous visits (see Reichel et al. 1997, 
Hendricks 2000). In 2003 only brood 
surveys were conducted, and only one brood 
of two young, on Marten Creek, was 
observed and banded (Table 2). In 2004, 
only one pair was seen in spring on this suite 
of streams, on Marten Creek. However, two 
broods (of 4 and 6 young) with hens were 
observed on Rock Creek during the brood 
surveys of 2004, indicating two pairs were 
missed in spring (because they were 
overlooked, the pair surveys were too early, 
or the pairs had already disbanded). One of 
the Rock Creek broods was captured and 
banded (Table 2). Stream flows during all 
surveys were relatively low, and total 
numbers of females and broods were also at 
or below the long-term (1992-1999) 
minimums for this group of streams 
(Hendricks 2000). 

Middle Clark Fork : One stream, Cache 
Creek, was surveyed along the standard 
section during the 2004 brood season. No 
Harlequin Ducks were observed. This 
stream has been surveyed only infrequently, 
but pairs have been documented previously 
(Reichel et al. 1997). 

in August 2004. The three broods banded 
on 20 August and a fourth unbanded brood 
seen on 25 August are probably the same 
ones documented during an 1 1 August 
survey by Park personnel (see Richards and 
Edmonds 2004). 

No Harlequin Ducks were observed on the 
other streams surveyed in the Park, except 
for a pair in May on Fish Creek. Reports of 
a brood in this area, well before the brood 
surveys were conducted on Upper 
McDonald Creek, suggest that the Fish 
Creek pair produced a brood (Steve Gniadek 
personal communication). 

South Fork Flathead : Three streams in this 
drainage were surveyed, all in late July 2003 
(Table 1). Three broods (of 6, 5, and 5 
young) and their hens, plus a lone female, 
were encountered on Spotted Bear River, 
and a lone female was seen on Sullivan 
Creek. These numbers are comparable to 
brood survey results of these streams in 
previous years (Hendricks and Reichel 
1998). No Harlequin Ducks were observed 
on Wounded Buck Creek, although they 
have bred on this stream in the past (Reichel 
et al. 1997). 

Glacier National Park : Under this heading 
are two drainages that were surveyed: 
McDonald Creek and Upper Saint Mary 
River. Streams surveyed in 2004 within 
each were Upper McDonald, Fish, and Fern 
creeks in the first, and Upper Saint Mary 
River, Reynolds, and Paradise creeks in the 
second. Only Upper McDonald Creek was 
surveyed during both the pair and brood 
seasons (Table 1). Ten pairs and ten single 
males (30 birds total) were observed on 
Upper McDonald Creek in early May, a near 
record count. During brood surveys in late 
August, three broods (of 3, 5, and 3 young) 
were captured and banded (Table 2). A 
fourth brood of 7 young with a hen was 
observed five days later; none of these birds 
was already banded. Thus, four broods (18 
young) were observed on McDonald Creek 

Middle Fork Flathead : Five streams in this 
drainage were surveyed, all in brood season 
2003 (Table 1). No Harlequin Ducks were 
observed on any of these. Two streams 
(Middle Fork Flathead River and Granite 
Creek) have had prior reports of ducks, but 
breeding status on them remains uncertain 
(Reichel et al. 1997). The three remaining 
streams (Shaefer Creek, Dolly Varden 
Creek, and Morrison Creek) are considered 
potential breeding streams, but with no prior 
records of Harlequin Ducks; each had been 
surveyed no more than twice prior to 2003. 

North Fork Flathead : One stream, Trail 
Creek, was surveyed along the standard 
section during brood season of 2004. Two 
broods (4 and 5 young) and their hens were 
observed (Table 1). The surveyed section of 


Trail Creek is an island of forest within a 
larger region completely denuded by fire in 
summer 2003. One to three broods are 
typical for this creek (Reichel et al. 1997, 
Hendricks and Reichel 1998, Hendricks 
1999). It is encouraging that Harlequin 
Ducks continue to breed successfully on this 
creek despite an obvious increase of 
sediment deposited in the streambed. 

Stillwater (N) : One stream, Swift Creek, 
was surveyed during brood season 2003 in 
this drainage in the Whitefish area (Table 1). 
No Harlequin Ducks were observed. Swift 
Creek is considered a stream probably used 
by Harlequin Ducks for breeding (Reichel et 
al. 1997). However, breeding has not yet 
been documented despite four prior surveys. 

North Fork Blackfoot : One stream, North 
Fork Blackfoot River, was surveyed in this 
drainage along the standard section during 
brood season 2004 (Table 1). One brood (8 
young) and their hen were observed. Few 
prior surveys have been conducted on this 
stream, but pairs and broods are regularly 
reported (Reichel et al. 1997), and a few 
birds have been captured and banded. 


Table 1. Streams surveyed for Harlequin Ducks during 2003-2004. Watersheds, as delimited 
in Reichel et al. (1977), are in bold type. 








Lower Clark Fork 

South Fork Marten Cr. 

26 Jul. 2003 

3 May 2004 

26 Jul. 2004 

Marten Cr. 

27 Jul. 2003 



4 May 2004 




26 Jul. 2004 

Rock Cr. 

28 Jul. 2003 

5 May 2004 

27 Jul. 2004 




Swamp Cr. 

30 Jul. 2003 

6 May 2004 

28 Jul. 2004 

Vermilion R. 

29 Jul. 2003 

7 May 2004 

28 Jul. 2004 

Middle Clark Fork 

Cache Cr. 

27 Aug. 2004 

Glacier National Park 

Upper McDonald Cr. 

9 May 2004 




31 Jul. 2004 

20 Aug. 2004 




25 Aug. 2004 




Fern Cr. 

10 May 2004 

Fish Cr. 

10 May 2004 




Paradise Cr. 

5 Aug. 2004 

Reynolds Cr. 

4 Aug. 2004 

Upper St. Mary R. 

4 Aug. 2004 

South Fork Flathead 

Spotted Bear R. 

26 Jul. 2003 




Sullivan Cr. 

24 Jul. 2003 


Wounded Buck Cr. 

23 Jul. 2003 

Middle Fork Flathead 

Middle Fork Flathead R. 

27 Jul. 2003 

Granite Cr. 

9 Aug. 2003 

Shaefer Cr. 

8 Aug. 2003 

Dolly Varden Cr. 

7 Aug. 2003 

Morrison Cr. 

5 Aug. 2003 

North Fork Flathead 

Trail Cr. 

30 Jul. 2004 




Stillwater (N) 

Swift Cr. 

29 Aug. 2003 

North Fork Blackfoot 

North Fork Blackfoot R. 

18 Aug. 2004 





Table 2. Harlequin Ducks captured and banded on Marten Creek ("Marten") on 26 July 2003, 
Rock Creek ("Rock") on 27 July 2004, and Upper McDonald Creek ("McDonald") on 20 August 
2004. All color bands are blue with white alpha-alpha (juvenile) or alpha-numeric (adult) codes. 

Aluminum Band 

Color Band 

Sex a 

Age b 


Wing Chord 

Tail Length 






Marten: Group 1 















Rock: Group 1 




































McDonald: Group 1 





























McDonald: Group 2 




































McDonald: Group 3 





























a F = female, M= male, U = undetermined. 

b IIB = juvenile with down on back and posterior half of body, IIC = juvenile with down 
confined to lower back and vent, III = juvenile fully feathered but flightless, FJ = flying juvenile, 
ASY = after second year adult. 



The maximum one-day count of pairs (ten) in 
2004, and the total brood count (four), were 
the largest for Upper McDonald Creek since 
1997 and 1992, respectively (Richards and 
Edmonds 2004). The brood counts in 2004 
on McDonald Creek are more encouraging 
for Harlequin Duck productivity in Montana 
than those on the five monitored Lower 
Clark Fork streams in the Noxon area, which 
apparently produced only two broods in 2004 
(the eight-year average for the period 1992- 
1999 was 4.6 broods; Hendricks 2000). Thus 
it seems that "good" years and "bad" years 
for Harlequin Ducks are not necessarily 
synchronized across northwestern Montana. 

McDonald Creek continues to be an 
important breeding stream in Montana for 
Harlequin Ducks. Stream flow levels are 
maintained through the brood season at 
levels sufficient over much of the full reach 
of Upper McDonald Creek to be utilized by 
ducks until ducklings are old enough to move 
downstream and disperse. In contrast, 
tributary streams of the Lower Clark Fork 
River near Noxon and Trout Creek often 
experience August water levels so low that 
the beds go dry in some areas where breeding 
by Harlequin Ducks appears to occur 
(personal observation). Low water levels 
may make Harlequin broods more 
susceptible to predation, and may reduce 
available food levels to the point where 
deleterious effects are apparent on duckling 
survival. Thus, the available time-series data 
suggest that McDonald Creek may be more 
reliable Harlequin Duck breeding habitat, 
whereas Harlequins breeding on the streams 
in the Noxon area are exposing themselves to 
marginal habitat in some years. 

1998, Hendricks 1999, 2000). Results from 
Spotted Bear River, Trail Creek, and North 

Fork Blackfoot River (in three distinct 
drainages) are especially encouraging and 
suggest that ducks continue to do as well on 
these streams as they did a decade ago. The 
results from these drainages, seemingly 
consistent with trends on Upper McDonald 
Creek, further underscore the disappointing 
results from the Lower Clark Fork streams. 
Thus, it is unlikely that events on the 
wintering areas are affecting the apparent 
decline of the Lower Clark Fork population, 
because Harlequins from many Montana 
breeding streams (including all of those 
surveyed in 2003-2004) intermix on the 
Pacific coast during winter. 

The results from the 2003-2004 field seasons 
indicate a need for sustained monitoring on 
all of the above streams, so that the Lower 
Clark Fork results can be placed in a larger 
regional context of population trends, and 
interpreted appropriately. There is also a 
need to understand why the apparent decline 
of breeding in the Noxon area is happening. 
This will require monitoring stream flows 
(there appears to be a correlation between the 
recent years of drought and the decline in 
productivity) and benthic productivity 
(especially those taxa fed upon by Harlequin 
Ducks) on selected streams, and analyzing 
trends of each. Analyses of surrounding 
landscapes are also important so that other 
types of large-scale disturbances can be 
eliminated as factors contributing to 
population trends; we still don't fully 
understand what drives Harlequin Duck 
populations up or down. 

Other Harlequin Duck breeding streams in 
northwestern Montana that were surveyed 
during 2003-2004 showed about average 
productivity relative to prior survey results 
(Reichel et al. 1997, Hendricks and Reichel 



Many people participated in Harlequin Duck 
stream surveys during 2003-2004, including 
Susan Leonard, Coburn Currier, Martin 
Miller, and Joe Johnson (all with Montana 
Natural Heritage Program), John Carlson 
(formerly with Heritage), Eric Dobbs (on 
contract with Heritage in 2003), Jim Sparks 
(BLM Missoula Field Office), Amy 
Edmonds, Pete Lumberg, John Kyle, Steve 
Rice, and Steve Gniadek (all affiliated with 
Glacier National Park), and Cyndi Smith 
(Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada), 
who educated us all on some fine points of 
Harlequin Duck biology. I apologize to 
those whose names I overlooked; your help 
with the surveys is appreciated nevertheless. 

Literature Cited 

Reichel, J. D., D. L. Genter, and D. P. 

Hendricks. 1997. Harlequin Duck 
research and monitoring in 
Montana: 1996. Montana Natural 
Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 69 

Richards, W., and A. Edmonds. 2004. 
Harlequin Duck surveys, Upper 
McDonald Creek, Glacier National 
Park. Chapter 1 in report to Glacier 
National Park, Division of Science 
and Resources Management. 1 1 pp. 

Robertson, G. J., and R. I. Goudie. 1999. 
Harlequin Duck {Histrionicus 
histrionicus). In The Birds of North 
America, No. 466 (A. Poole and F. 
Gill, eds.). The Birds of North 
America, Inc. Philadelphia, PA. 32 

Hendricks, P. 1999. Harlequin Duck 

research and monitoring in Montana: 

1998. Montana Natural Heritage 
Program. Helena, MT. 30 pp. 

Hendricks, P. 2000. Harlequin Duck 

research and monitoring in Montana: 

1999. Montana Natural Heritage 
Program. Helena, MT. 34 pp. 

Hendricks, P., and J. D. Reichel. 1998. 
Harlequin Duck research and 
monitoring in Montana: 1997. 
Montana Natural Heritage Program. 
Helena, MT. 28 pp. 

Kuchel, C. R. 1977. Some aspects of the 
behavior and ecology of Harlequin 
Ducks breeding in Glacier National 
Park, Montana. M.S. thesis. 
University of Montana. Missoula, 
MT 160 pp. 

Montana Natural Heritage Program. 2004. 
Montana Animal Species of Concern. 
MTNHP & MFWP. Helena, MT. 13 






Monitoring Black Swifts in Montana: 2004 Annual Report 

Jeff Marks, Montana Audubon 
Dan Casey, American Bird Conservancy 

10 December 2004 


The Black Swift (Cypseloides niger) is a 
poorly known species that is receiving 
increasing attention from the conservation 
community. Partners in Flight lists it as a 
Continental Watch List species and as a 
Priority Species in Bird Conservation Region 
10 (officially, the Northern Rockies, which 
includes western Montana), the National 
Audubon Society also places it on their 
"WatchList," and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service recently listed it as a Species of 
Conservation Concern. It also has been 
designated as a Level II Priority Species in 
the Montana Bird Conservation Plan (Casey 

From mid- July to late August 2004, we 
visited 32 potential nesting sites in western 

Montana to initiate the first organized survey 
of nesting Black Swifts in the state. Prior to 
this work, Black Swifts had been 
documented nesting at only two sites in 
Montana (Hunter and Baldwin 1962, 1972). 
We confirmed that one of these historic sites 
was still active (South Fork Mission Creek); 
the other site (Mount Vaught/McPartland 
Mountain, Glacier National Park) most likely 
was not. We also found a new site in Glacier 
National Park (Haystack Creek) and learned 
of a possible new site in the Bitterroot 
Mountains (Gash Creek). Owing to a 
number of challenges discussed below, the 
surveys were difficult to conduct. 
Nonetheless, we are encouraged by our 
preliminary results and hope to undertake 
additional surveys in the coming years. 



Black Swifts are almost completely 
dependent on waterfalls for nesting (Knorr 
1993, Marin 1997). We confined our 
surveys to waterfalls west of 110° longitude 
because the species has not been recorded 
(breeding or otherwise) east of this longitude 
in Montana (Lenard et al. 2003). 

Sites were visited by us and by qualified 
volunteers trained by us. Our main objective 
was to verify presence or absence of Black 
Swifts at each site. Secondarily, we wanted 
to estimate colony size at occupied sites. We 
also scored the suitability of each site 
(maximum score is 30, with higher values 
indicating higher suitability for nesting 
swifts) using protocols developed in 
Colorado, Oregon, and Washington (Schultz 
and Levad 2002, Altman 2003) and outlined 
by Casey (2004). These protocols are 
summarized on the field forms, a copy of 
which is presented in Appendix A. 

Observers stationed themselves at the nearest 
safely accessible point that afforded a clear 
view of the waterfall and then simply 
watched for incoming swifts. We strived to 
be present for the last two hours before dusk 
at each site because Black Swifts typically 
concentrate their visits to nests at this time 
(Foerster and Collins 1990). We rated each 
falls during our visits to watch for swifts. 
Volunteers were briefed on procedures, and 
sometimes trained in the field, before 
conducting surveys of potential nesting sites. 


We visited 32 potential nesting sites in 2004, 
12 in Glacier National Park, 3 on or adjacent 
to the Flathead National Forest, 2 in the 
Mission Mountains within the Flathead 
Reservation, 4 in the Bitterroot National 
Forest, and 1 1 in the Gallatin National Forest 

(Table 1). We observed Black Swifts in the 
vicinity of five waterfalls in Glacier Park and 
one waterfall in the Mission Mountains; we 
watched them fly behind falls, presumably to 
nests, at two of these sites (see below). We 
found no active waterfall at the site near 
Mount Vaught/McPartland Mountain, where 
Black Swifts were first documented nesting 
in July 1962 (Hunter and Baldwin 1972), 
although additional waterfalls in the vicinity 
merit surveys in future years. The following 
narratives describe our 2004 survey efforts 
and results at all of the potential nesting sites 
we visited in 2004. The ranking score 
recorded for each of the falls is listed in 
Table 1. 

Appistoki Falls (Glacier Park). — 
Visited by John and Kathy Hughes from 
1900 to 2030 on 20 August. No swifts were 

Avalanche Lake complex (Glacier 
Park). — This series of falls on the headwall 
about 1.5 km above Avalanche Lake 
consists, from northeast to southwest, of 
Monument Falls and three unnamed falls, the 
last of which is due south of Avalanche Lake 
and just east of the Little Matterhorn. We 
(Dan Casey, Jeff Marks, Dick Cannings, and 
Steve Gniadek) observed all four falls from 
1835-2100 on 12 July. Although we saw 
several Black Swifts (no more than two 
simultaneously) feeding above the lake and 
basin below the falls, we did not see them 
enter cliffs near the falls, or even approach 
the falls closely. Each of these falls is more 
than 200 m high, and they consist of a 
mixture of plunges, cascades, and horsetail 
sections. We observed them from >1 km 
away, making it difficult to accurately assess 
features of the falls (height of different 
sections, moss and niche availability, etc.) 
and to see if swifts were approaching them. 
Parts of these falls appear to contain suitable 
habitat for nesting swifts, and the sites should 


be visited up close in future years. We note, 
however, that such surveys will require 
bushwhacking through dense, bear-infested 
habitat that would not be safe to traverse 
after sundown. Indeed, we retreated from 
our initial vantage point when an adult 
grizzly bear (Ursos arctos) appeared in the 
brush 250 m above Avalanche Lake and less 
than 150 m from us. We note that these 
waterfalls were surveyed for Black Swift 
nests in 1960, "without success" (Hunter and 
Baldwin 1962: 409). 

Baring Falls (Glacier Park). — Visited 
by John and Kathy Hughes from 1900 to 
2030 on 21 August. No swifts were seen. 

Bird Woman Falls (Glacier Park). — 
Bird Woman Falls is an excellent example of 
a tall (ca. 125 m) horsetail/plunge/fan falls. 
Dan Casey assessed it from >3 km away 
through a spotting scope on 2 August. The 
falls seemingly are inaccessible for 
occupancy surveys, but they certainly offer 
suitable habitat, with strong flows of water 
late in the season, a commanding view, great 
aerial access, and what appear to be abundant 
and inaccessible (to predators) nesting 
niches. If one could figure out how to access 
this off-trail locale safely, it should be 
observed closely in the future because it 
offers strong potential as a nesting site for 
Black Swifts. 

Haystack Creek (Glacier Park). — Dan 
and Hannah Casey visited this site on 2 
August from 2025-2135, observing from the 
roadside at the falls and from a pullout about 
200 m west of the stream crossing. The road 
was under construction, so closer approach 
was not possible. We saw four swifts fly into 
the falls (one at 2042, three at 2128), 
indicating that it is the first new nesting site 
discovered for Black Swifts in Montana in 
more than 40 years. Figure 1 shows the 
approximate location where the swifts 

entered the falls; all four were within a 20-m 
section of cliff face below Going-to-the-Sun 
Road. Elevation at the site was 1,585 m 
(5,200 feet). 

One entry occurred at perhaps the most likely 
site for a nest, just below the lip of a small 
(ca. 15 m) plunge section of the waterfall; the 
other three birds flew into the wetted cliff 
just south of this plunge. The number of 
pairs and/or nests that these four individuals 
represent is unknown. This site should 
certainly be resurveyed in future years. After 
the road construction is completed, it will be 
possible to scramble below the road to a 
place where the falls are more easily visible, 
which should enable us to estimate colony 

Mount Vaught/McPartland Mountain 
(Glacier Park). — Black Swifts were 
discovered nesting behind an unnamed falls 
on a headwall between these two mountains 
on 24 July 1962, making this site the second 
confirmed nesting locale for Black Swifts in 
Montana (see Hunter and Baldwin 1972). 
The site is approximately 6 km northwest of 
Avalanche Lake. On 2 August, Dan Casey 
looked for these falls from the road along 
upper McDonald Creek but concluded that 
they no longer existed (or, at least that no 
flow was present). The possibility that 
melting glaciers associated with global 
climate change result in a net loss of 
waterfalls, and thus a potential loss in nesting 
habitat for Black Swifts, is intriguing. 

Lower Virginia Falls (Glacier 
Park). — This site was visited by John and 
Kathy Hughes during mid-day on 21 August. 
No birds were seen. 

Weeping Wall (Glacier Park). — Dan 
and Hannah Casey visited this site on 2 
August. The survey lasted 38 min (1945- 
2023) and was conducted from the roadside 


along the entire wetted length of the rock 
wall (ca. 150 m). No swifts were seen during 
the survey. This site includes a wall about 8 
m high with weak flows at the time we 
visited (although most nearby "streams" 
above and below this site were dry on this 
date). Although the site has many small 
niches and good aerial access, coupled with a 
commanding view, most niches are probably 
accessible to predators, there is little moss, 
and most of the moisture results from seeps. 
We believe that this site does not need 
further surveys. That said, the site is readily 
accessible and thus could easily be visited in 
conjunction with visits to other nearby sites. 

St. Mary Falls (Glacier National 
Park). — This site was visited by John and 
Kathy Hughes during mid-day on 21 August. 
No birds were seen. 

Little Bitterroot (Plum Creek adjacent 
to Flathead National Forest). — Visited by 
John and Kathy Hughes from 1905 to 2055 
on 18 August. No birds were seen, but the 
falls appear to have suitable structure for 
nesting swifts. 

Martin Creek (Flathead National 
Forest). — Dan and Susannah Casey visited 
these falls on 4 August from 2035-2130. No 
swifts were seen. This site sits within the 
canopy in a forested landscape and is a 
roughly 25 -m cascade with limited aerial 
access and relatively easy access for 
predators to what niches are available. This 
site is highly unlikely to support Black 
Swifts and should not be included in future 

Silver Stairs (Flathead National 
Forest). — This cascade-style falls along 
Highway 2 near Marias Pass was surveyed 
by Dan Casey from 1940-2134 on 3 August. 
No Black Swifts were seen. The falls were 
surveyed from the roadside and from a "trail" 

alongside the lower section (ca. 30 m vertical 
with no plunges or horsetail sections longer 
than 1 m or so). This "staircase" falls has 
numerous niches, but very few vertical faces 
on the lower visible portions, and profuse 
access to predators. Indeed, during the 
survey Casey watched three teenagers 
scrambling up the face of the falls until they 
were out of sight and also saw five smaller 
children climbing on the lower 10 m of the 
falls. It is doubtful that any suitable swift 
habitat occurs on this lower section, although 
longer plunge sections are apparently more 
common higher up on the falls. The site 
should not be emphasized in future survey 

Mission Falls (Mission Mountains, 
Flathead Reservation). — Jeff Marks visited 
the falls on 5 August between 1215 and 
1300. The falls consists of a horsetail of 
about 20 m with no visible nesting niches 
(owing to the volume of water). This site 
was surveyed for Black Swifts in 1961 
(Hunter and Baldwin 1962), the authors 
finding no swifts at Mission Falls proper but 
discovering a colony behind the unnamed 
falls on the South Fork of Mission Creek (see 
below). Mission Falls, and Elizabeth Falls 
above it, do not appear to be highly suitable 
for nesting Black Swifts, but if time permits 
it would be worth confirming this notion by 
observing the two sets of falls for a longer 
period of time toward the end of the day. 

South Fork Mission Creek (Mission 
Mountains, Flathead Reservation). — 
Discovery of the first known nest sites for 
Black Swifts in Montana occurred here in 
July 1961 (Hunter and Baldwin 1962). Jeff 
Marks visited the site from 1400-1715 on 5 
August. Access to the site involves crossing 
Mission Creek below Mission Falls and then 
bushwhacking through dense brush to 
emerge at the lower half of the falls. Then, 
one must scale a steep slope and plow 


thorough more brush to come out on a small 
outcrop of rock directly across from the 
section of falls where the swifts nest. The 
falls are about 60 m high, but the spot where 
the swifts nest is on a small segment with a 
gentle plunge of water near the top of the 
main falls. 

At 1100, Marks saw two Black Swifts flying 
high above Mission Creek, heading toward 
the falls, as he hiked up the drainage, but he 
saw no swifts near the falls until a single bird 
arrived silently and flew directly behind a 
curtain of water, presumably to a nest, at 
1607 (Fig. 1). Interestingly, the site Marks 
observed was different from the five nests 
originally discovered here in 1961 (see 
Hunter and Baldwin 1962: figure 1), 
although it was within a meter of nest no. 4 
shown in the paper. The elevation at the site 
was about 1,370 m (4,500 feet). The entire 
falls is a complex of plunges, horsetails, fans, 
and cascades, and the falls in segmented and 
tiered. Much of it appears unsuitable for 
nesting swifts. This fact underscores the 
need to revisit some of the large falls in 
Glacier Park (e.g., Avalanche Lake complex) 
that might appear unsuitable from a distance 
yet contain small portions of suitable habitat 
used by swifts. 

Another important lesson learned at this site 
is that swifts may arrive very quickly and 
quietly (or their vocalizations cannot be 
heard above the noise of the falls), and they 
will fly directly to their nests without circling 
the falls. Had Marks been looking in another 
direction for even a moment, he would have 
missed seeing the bird. Marks did not stay 
later in the day because it would have been 
unsafe to hike out of the site in the dark. We 
recommend that if this site is visited at dusk 
to estimate colony size, observers should 
spend the night somewhere in the vicinity of 
the falls. 

Gash Creek (Bitterroot Mountains, 
Bitterroot National Forest). — Jeff Marks 
observed this site from 1830-1925 on 22 
July. Not shown on any maps, we learned of 
it from Sophie Osborn, who reported Black 
Swifts flying behind the falls in 1997 or 1998 
when she was studying American Dippers 
(Cinclus mexicanus). The falls is on private 
land just south (below) of the Forest Service 
boundary, and access through public land 
requires bushwhacking about 2 km into a 
steep canyon. Marks did not see any swifts, 
but he was not able to stay later in the day 
because it would have been difficult to hike 
out of the site at night. The site could be 
easily and safely accessed from private land. 

The falls consists of a plunge of about 8 m, 
with water flowing into a cave-like bowl that 
appeared to have lots of niches behind it. 
The site is not typical for Black Swifts 
because it is at a rather low elevation (1,250 
m), is near the base of the mountains, does 
not offer a commanding view of the valley 
below, and is partially enclosed by conifers 
from above. Nonetheless, in view of 
Osborn' s observations this site should be 
visited near sundown next year if permission 
from private landowners to access the site 
can be obtained. 

Lower Falls, Sweathouse Creek 
(Bitterroot Mountains, Bitterroot National 
Forest). — Jeff Marks observed this site on 21 
July and again, with Patrick Toomey, on 3 
August, staying until sundown. No swifts 
were seen. The falls is only about 12 m high, 
half of which is a plunge and the other half a 
horsetail. There did not appear to be nesting 
niches behind the plunge portion of the falls, 
and we conclude that Black Swifts do not 
nest at this site. 

Upper Falls, Sweathouse Creek 
(Bitterroot Mountains, Bitterroot National 
Forest). — Jeff Marks and Patrick Toomey 


observed this small falls (ca. 8 m high) from 
1900-1930 on 3 August. No swifts were 
seen, and the site did not appear to offer any 
suitable nest niches. It is highly doubtful that 
swifts nest at this site. 

Skalkaho Falls (Sapphire Mountains, 
Bitterroot National Forest). — Visited by 
Patrick Toomey from 1745-2100 on 6 
August, who saw no Black Swifts. The falls 
is roughly 30 m high and consists mostly of a 
series of cascades. There did not appear to 
be much in the way of suitable nesting niches 
for swifts. 

Hyalite Canyon complex (Gallatin 
National Forest). — We visited 10 falls within 
Hyalite Canyon proper as well as Palisade 
Falls near the mouth of the Flanders Creek 
Canyon east of Hyalite Reservoir. The sites 
within Hyalite Canyon range in elevation 
from 2,180 m (7,150 feet) at Grotto Falls to 
about 2,685 m (8,800 feet) at Alpine and S'il 
Vous Plait falls below Hyalite Lake; Palisade 
Falls is at 2,225 m (7,300 feet). Jeff Marks 
and Angie Kociolek visited Arch, 
Champagne, Grotto, Silken Skein, and 
Unnamed No. 1 on 8 August, staying until 
sundown to watch two of them (Champagne 
and Unnamed No. 1). On 11 August, Angie 
Kociolek visited Alpine, Apex, Shower, S'il 
Vous Plait, and Unnamed No. 2 in Hyalite 
Canyon and then went to Palisade Falls, 
which she observed from 1930-2100. 
Kociolek, Dan Krza, Kate Regan, and 
Russell Barabe returned to the canyon on 21 
August, observing Alpine Falls and 
Unnamed No. 2 from 1900-2045. No swifts 
were seen. 

The named falls in the Hyalite Canyon area 
did not seem especially suitable for Black 
Swifts. Most are small and are tucked amidst 
conifers on flat sections of the creek versus 
high up on slopes that offered commanding 
views. Two exceptions are Unnamed Falls 

Nos. 1 and 2, which could not be approached 
closely but which appeared to have 
characteristics consistent with our notion of 
good swift habitat. We note, however, that 
Black Swifts appear to be very rare in this 
part of Montana. Indeed, we know of only 
one sight record for Gallatin County, a bird 
seen by Clifford Davis near Rockhaven in 
May 1962 (Skaar 1969). Given that Skaar 
himself never observed this species in the 
Bozeman area, and that it hasn't been seen in 
the area in the 20 years since Skaar died, the 
occurrence of the Black Swift as a breeder in 
the Gallatin Range is doubtful, despite the 
presence of waterfalls that may be suitable 
for nesting. 


Drawing on his extensive experience 
searching for swifts in Colorado, Knorr 
(1961: 168) listed five "requirements" of 
Black Swift nesting sites: (1) water, varying 
from a trickle to a torrent; (2) high relief, 
offering a commanding position above 
surrounding terrain; (3) inaccessibility to 
terrestrial predators; (4) darkness, such that 
"the sun never shines on the nest of a Black 
Swift"; and (5) unobstructed fly ways, which 
are a corollary to high relief. To this we 
would add that the few nest sites we have 
seen have been behind plunges of moderate 
(vs. torrential) flow, and there has to be space 
behind the falls such that water is not pouring 
down onto the nest proper. The five nests 
observed on the South Fork of Mission Creek 
in 1961 exhibited Knorr' s requirements, 
except that four of the nests received direct 
sunlight in late afternoon (Hunter and 
Baldwin 1962: 415). Black Swifts have been 
documented nesting in a low-relief stream 
gorge in Alberta (D. Cannings, pers. obs.), 
and if the Gash Creek site proves to be 
occupied by nesting swifts, it will constitute 
a second site that does not have high relief. 


Thus, we think of Knorr's requirements as 
perhaps applying to the highest-quality 
nesting sites for the species rather than being 
absolute requisites. That said, his 
observations will be very useful as we 
attempt to narrow our search to waterfalls 
that possess characteristics that would 
maximize their potential to be occupied by 
Black Swifts. 

One of the biggest challenges we faced was 
not being able to closely observe sites at the 
best time (i.e., early evening) to maximize 
our chances of seeing swifts. For example, 
Glacier Park offers high potential for nesting 
colonies owing to the fact that many falls 
exist in the area, and swifts have been 
observed in the park repeatedly for many 
years. Yet, many of the waterfalls have no 
trails to them, and the park is inhabited by 
grizzly bears. Bushwhacking out of a remote 
site after sundown simply is not safe on a 
number of fronts. Consequently, many of the 
surveys in Glacier Park will involve 
overnight stays and perhaps arduous hikes. 
The same problems would apply to falls in 
the Mission Mountains and perhaps also to 
those in the Cabinet and Purcell ranges. The 
Bitterroot Mountains also offer high potential 
for nesting Black Swifts. Birds have been 
seen there many times in summer (Lenard et 
al. 2003), and small unnamed waterfalls 
likely occur in many of the drainages that 
come off this steep range. 

For next year, we will request funds for a 
concerted effort to survey at least six high- 
potential and perhaps remote sites in Glacier 
National Park and the Bitterroot Mountains. 
These sites will be selected after we consult 
with Park Service and Forest Service 
biologists. As noted above, we also 
recommend revisiting Gash Creek to 
document whether swifts nest there and 
South Fork of Mission Creek and Haystack 
Creek to estimate colony size. By 

concentrating on a small number of sites that 
look especially suitable, we could make 
enough visits to not only document breeding, 
but to estimate colony size. The next step 
would be to set up a scheme to monitor 
known occupied sites for presence of swifts 
(and perhaps nesting success) in future years. 


We thank Russell Barabe, Dick Cannings, 
Hannah Casey, Susannah Casey, Steve 
Gniadek, John Hughes, Kathy Hughes, Angie 
Kociolek, Dan Krza, Kate Ciari Regan, and 
Patrick Toomey for helping with the surveys. 

Literature Cited 

Altman, B. 2003. Inventorying Black Swift 
nesting populations at waterfalls in the 
Northern Pacific Rainforest Bird 
Conservation Region. American Bird 
Conservancy, Corvallis, OR. 

Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft 
Bird Conservation Plan Montana. 
Version 1.0. Montana Partners in Flight, 
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, 
Kalispell, MT. 

Casey, D. 2004. Coordinated bird 

monitoring in Montana. Special species 
monitoring: Black Swift. Prepared for the 
Montana Bird Conservation Partnership 
and the University of Montana. American 
Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, MT.. 

Foerster, K. S., and C. T. Collins. 1990. 
Breeding distribution of the Black Swift 
in southern California. Western Birds 

Hunter, W. F., and P. H. Baldwin. 1962. 
Nesting of the Black Swift in Montana. 
Wilson Bulletin 74:409-416. 


Hunter, W. F, and P. H. Baldwin. 1972. 

Black Swift nest in Glacier National 

Park. Murrelet 53:50-55. 
Knorr, O. A. 1961. The geographical and 

ecological distribution of the Black Swift 

in Colorado. Wilson Bulletin 73:155-170. 
Knorr, O. A. 1993. Black Swift (Cypseloides 

niger) nesting site characteristics: Some 

new insights. Avocetta 17:139-140. 
Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and 

C.Tilly. 2003. P.D. Skaar's Montana 

Bird Distribution, 6 th ed. Montana 

Audubon, Helena. 
Marin, M. 1997. Some aspects of the 

breeding biology of the Black Swift. 

Wilson Bulletin 109:290-306. 
Schultz, C, andR. Levad. 2002. Black 

Swift survey protocol. San Juan National 

Forest and Rocky Mountain Bird 

Observatory, Grand Junction, CO. 
Skaar, P. D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman 

latilong. Published privately, Bozeman, 



Table 1. Potential Black Swift nesting sites visited in 2004. 

Waterfall Name 


Latitude/Longitude (USGS quad) 

Site score 

Appistoki Falls 

Glacier NP 

48.482 °N, 

11 3.353 °W 

[Squaw Mountain) 


Monument Falls (Avalanche Lake) 

Glacier NP 

48.650 °N, 


[Mount Cannon) 


Unnamed No. 1 (Avalanche Lake) 

Glacier NP 



[Mount Cannon) 


Unnamed No. 2 (Avalanche Lake) 

Glacier NP 

48.641 °N, 

11 3.774 °W 

[Mount Cannon) 


Unnamed No. 3 (Avalanche Lake) 

Glacier NP 


11 3.781 °W 

[Mount Cannon) 


Baring Falls 

Glacier NP 

48.677 °N, 

11 3.593 °W 

[Rising Sun) 


Bird Woman Falls 

Glacier NP 

48.708 °N, 


[Logan Pass) 


Haystack Creek 

Glacier NP 


11 3.745 °W 

[Logan Pass) 


Vaught/McPartland mountains 

Glacier NP 


11 3.854 °W 

[Mount Cannon) 

Not scored 

St. Mary Falls 

Glacier NP 

48.668 °N, 


[Rising Sun) 

Not scored 

Virginia Falls (Lower) 

Glacier NP 

48.660 °N, 


[Rising Sun) 

Not scored 

Weeping Wall 

Glacier NP 


11 3.728 °W 

[Logan Pass) 


Little Bitterroot 

Plum Creek 


11 4.708 °W 



Martin Creek 

Flathead NF 


11 4.686 °W 



Silver Stairs 

Flathead NF 


11 3.525 °W 



Mission Falls 

Flathead Res 


11 3.939 °W 

[Saint Marys Lake) 


South Fork Mission Creek 

Flathead Res 

47.331 °N, 

11 3.945 °W 

[Saint Marys Lake) 


Gash Creek 

Bitterroot NF 


11 4.237 °W 



Sweathouse Creek (Lower) 

Bitterroot NF 


11 4.257 °W 

[Gash Point) 


Sweathouse Creek (Upper) 

Bitterroot NF 


11 4.260 °W 

[Gash Point) 


Skalkaho Falls 

Bitterroot NF 

46.258 °N, 

11 3.827 °W 

[Burnt Fork Lake) 


Alpine Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.393 °N, 

11 0.953 °W 

[Fridley Peak) 


Apex Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.396 °N, 


[Fridley Peak) 


Arch Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.428 °N, 

11 0.961 °W 

[Fridley Peak) 


Champagne Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.408 °N, 

11 0.958 °W 

[Fridley Peak) 


Grotto Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.436 °N, 

11 0.964 °W 

[Fridley Peak) 


Palisade Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.470 °N, 

11 0.930 °W 

[Fridley Peak) 


Shower Falls 

Gallatin NF 



[Fridley Peak) 


S'il Vous Plait Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.393 °N, 


[Fridley Peak) 


Silken Skein Falls 

Gallatin NF 

45.420 °N, 

11 0.954 °W 

[Fridley Peak) 


Unnamed Falls No. 1 (Hyalite) 

Gallatin NF 

45.41 2°N, 


[Fridley Peak) 


Unnamed Falls No. 2 (Hyalite) 

Gallatin NF 

45.406 °N, 


[Fridley Peak) 


A Sites where swifts were observed are in bold. Nesting strongly suspected only at Haystack 
Creek and South Fork Mission Creek. 


\&v&r *;!■ JJ JggV^ 

Fig. 1. Haystack Creek falls (top) and South Fork Mission Creek falls (bottom). 
Yellow circles denote approximate locations where single Black Swifts entered 
suspected nest sites on 2 August (Haystack) and 5 August (Mission) 2004. 


Appendix A. Black Swift Survey Form (instructions on back page). 

Observer Name: Date: Begin Time:_ 

Your mailing and e-mail address: 

End Time: 

Black Swifts Seen? (V) Yes No. If Yes, Estimate Minimum Colony Size (# of adults): . 

Number of Nests: . Number of Nestlings: . Nest Niche {/)\ Ledge Pocket Other 

American Dippers Seen? {/) Yes No. If Yes, Number of Dippers: . Number of Dipper Nests: . 

Site or Waterfall Name: 

Aspect (direction falls face): c 

Ownership {/)\ Public Private 

Location: USGS Quad Map: 

Legal Description: Township: 

Stream Name: 

Elevation (top of falls): ft 

Management Area/Owner: 

UTM - Zone: S E: 

Range :_ 





Directions to Falls and Best Observation Point: 

Waterfall Type and Height: 

Total Height of Falls ft Plunge: ft Horsetail: ft Fan: 

Segmented? (•): Yes No. Tiered? (•): Yes No. 

ft Cascade: 


Flowing Surface Water during late summer {/): Points: . 

No flowing water (1) Flows weak (2) Flows moderate, little spray (3) 

Flows moderate, some spray (4) Flows heavy, much spray (5) 

Relief (commanding view) from Top of Falls over Surrounding Terrain (/): Points: . 

Falls at bottom of terrain (1) Little view from falls (2) Moderate view from falls (3) 

Good view from falls (4) Commanding view from falls over terrain (5) 

Number of Suitable Nest Niches (pockets or ledges) and Accessability to Ground Predators {/): Points: . 

No suitable niches present (1) Few niches and/or all niches accessable (2) 

Some niches and/or most niches accessable (3) Some niches and/or most niches inaccessable (4) 

Many suitable niches and/or all niches inaccessable (5) 

Unobstructed Aerial Access to or from Nest Niches {/)x 
No clear access (1) Clear to X A of niches (2) 

Clear to % of niches (4) Clear to all of niches (5) 


Clear to Vi of niches (3) 

Shading of Nest Niches {/)\ 
Nest niches sunlit all day (1) Sunlit >3hr/day (2) 
Shaded all day (5) 

Sunlit l-3hr/day (3) 


Sunlit <lhr/day (4) 

Moss Availability {/)i 
No moss present (1) 
Abundant moss (5) 

Trace of moss (2) 

Scattered moss (3) 

Frequent Moss (4) 

Total Points:_ 
Weather, observations, comments, nests (location, height, distance from falls, presence of whitewash) 

Please attach copy of topographic map with falls marked on map. (OVER for Instructions) 


Appendix A, contd. Instructions for field protocol 

Completed Forms: Make a copy, and send original with topo map to Jeff Marks, Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research 

Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812 or to Daniel Casey, American Bird Conservancy, 33 Second St. E., 

Kalispell, MT, 59901, no later than 30 September 2004. 

Survey Methods: The probability of detecting a new Black Swift colony is highest when they are feeding young, which, in 
the Rocky Mountains, is mid- July to late August. The most productive time to count flying birds is the final two hours 
of daylight when adult swifts return to the colony to roost and feed young. Try to visit each site twice , with at least 10 
days between visits. During each survey, estimate the highest number of adults visible at one time flying about or 
roosting on the nest cliff. Select an observation location that maximizes the view of the potential nest cliff and aerial 
access routes. At falls, this will usually be near the base where there is a clear view of the sky, especially in the dim light 
conditions just before dark. Please describe locations birds are seen roosting so they can by checked for nests in daylight. 
Choose weather conditions with light winds, little or no overcast, light precipitation and seasonally mild temperatures. 
For safety reasons, there should be two observers present at all visits, with both observers watching from the same 
location. Always carry a primary and backup flashlight with spare batteries in case one dies while walking out after dark. 
Be aware of lightening, and remember, working around wet, moss-covered cliffs is inherently dangerous, especially after 
dark. BE CAREFUL. 

Waterfall Type: 

• Plunge: water is free-falling for most of its height without coming into contact with the underlying rock. 

• Horsetail: water maintains some contact with underlying rock for much of its height. 

• Fan: like a horsetail, but the stream of falling water gets wider as it descends. 

• Cascade: water flowing over a broad face with too many small leaps or segments to count. 

• Segmented: water is divided into two or more streams falling parallel to each other. 

• Tiered: the length of the water's drop is broken into distinct falls that are separated by short runs. 

Black Swift Habitat Characteristics: (Please fill in your score for each of these features on the field form) 

Flowing Surface Water: The most documented nesting habitat requirement is close proximity to falling water. No 
Black Swift nests have been found along intermittent streams, thus year-round flows appear to be required. The nest 
structures are usually in small cavities within the spray zone or directly behind the sheets of falling water, and are 
described as wet and dark. Occasionally, nests are located away from the spray zone but these are usually on ledges 
that are moist from other water sources. 

Commanding View (relief): The second most commonly noted nesting habitat attribute is a commanding view from the 
nest colony over the surrounding terrain. The ability of a swift to fly straight out from the nest colony and very 
quickly be hundreds of feet above the valley floor appears to be very important for site occupancy. Swifts are known 
to nest in the bottom of deep canyons and in caves but in these cases there is usually a broad view from the nest cliff 
down the canyon or from the mouth of the cave. 

Number of Nest Niches and Accessibility to Ground Predators: Black Swift nests are almost always built in a small 
pocket or ledge on a sheer face. Occupied nest niches are always inaccessible to mammalian ground predators. The 
placement of nests out of reach of ground predators may be an evolutionary response to low reproductive rates. All 
reports of Black Swift clutch sizes are of one egg only. Therefore, failure of the nest structure itself is the leading 
cause of reproductive failure. 

Unobstructed Aerial Access: A third habitat attribute that is related to commanding views is that aerial access to the 
nest niche is usually free of obstructions to flight. Black Swifts appear reluctant to fly near or through tree crowns 
and branches to access nest niches. Therefore, screening of potential nest cliffs by trees or other debris appears to 
significantly reduce the likelihood that otherwise suitable nest cliffs will be occupied by swifts. 

Shaded Nest Sites: Black Swift nest ledges are rarely sunlit, and then only late in the day as ambient air temperatures 
decline. The nest structures are invariably placed in microsites that are in deep shade the majority of the day. 
However, nestlings do not appear bothered by sunlight and often become more active while in direct sunlight. 

Moss Availability: The nest niche often has water flowing around or in front of the opening but the nest cup 
itself is usually dry. Because of their dampness and darkness, the nest niches are often covered with moss 
and other hydrophytic plants, and due to their ready availability, swift nests are constructed almost 
exclusively of mosses, lichens and other fine plant material. 






Coeur d'Alene Salamander Surveys in Northwestern Montana 

Paul Hendricks 
Montana Natural Heritage Program 


The Coeur d'Alene Salamander (Plethodon 
idahoensis) is the only plethodontid 
salamander known from the northern Rocky 
Mountains. The species has a discontinuous 
distribution that includes the Panhandle 
region of Idaho and southeastern British 
Columbia (Wilson and Ohanjanian 2002). In 
Montana, the Coeur d'Alene Salamander is 
found exclusively west of the Continental 
Divide in the five counties (Lincoln, Mineral, 
Missoula, Ravalli, Sanders) bordering the 
Idaho Panhandle, with >80% of known 
locations occurring in Lincoln and Sanders 
counties in the extreme northwest (Maxell et 
al. 2003, Werner et al. 2004), although new 
locations continue to be discovered in the 
other three counties. Surveys in the 1980's 
documented many new locations, and 
revealed that the species was more 
widespread and abundant than previously 
thought (Groves et al. 1996). Nevertheless, 
the Coeur d'Alene Salamander remains an 
Animal Species of Concern in Montana (G4, 
S2) and is designated Sensitive on lands of 
the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest 
Service (Montana Natural Heritage Program 

Following the comprehensive surveys of the 
late 1980' s, little additional monitoring has 
occurred to track trends of Coeur d'Alene 
Salamanders across their range and to check 
for continued occupancy at known sites in 
Montana, despite recommendation that long- 
term monitoring include checking all sites 
every 10 years (Groves et al. 1996). The 
notable exception is an area between 

Kootenai Falls and Libby (Lincoln County) 
where highway construction activity impacts 
several seeps and rock fracture zones that 
harbor large numbers of animals. 

During 2004 several locations were revisited 
to determine if sites were still occupied by 
the salamanders. None of the sites visited in 
2004 had been checked since 1995, other 
than the Kootenai Falls complex, which 
receives closer scrutiny by Forest Service 
personnel due to ongoing disturbance to the 

Study Area and Methods 

Surveys were conducted during 7-14 
September 2004 in three counties of 
northwestern Montana (Lincoln, Mineral, 
and Sanders). A watch was maintained for 
potential locations to search for salamanders 
during drives between known sites, but few 
of these were encountered due to lateness of 
the season and relatively dry conditions when 
the survey was undertaken. Survey locations 
were a subset of those in the Montana 
Natural Heritage Program databases where 
Coeur d'Alene Salamanders were 
documented previously. Site descriptions in 
Wilson and Simon (1988) were used to help 
identify specific locations at each site for 
searches, and to determine prior conditions 
and what had been found then. 

At sites with surface water flow, searches 
were first conducted during daylight. The 
site was checked again after dark if no 
salamanders were found on the first check. 


Where appropriate, surface material (stones, 
wood, moss mats) was overturned to look for 
animals in the substrate. The searches were 
timed, and air and water temperature 
recorded. Size (total length) of animals 
found was recorded, but none were sexed. 


Heritage personnel visited seven Coeur 
d' Alene Salamander sites in September 2004. 
Forest Service personnel checked an eighth 
site near Libby (J. Holifield personal 
communication). Of the four sites checked 
by Heritage with water flow at the surface, 
salamanders were found at three. Earlier in 
the summer, salamanders were reported at 
two other sites with surface flow, one of 
which was checked by Heritage with 
negative results. No surface water was 
present at the other three sites visited; two of 
these were searched (no salamanders were 
found). In summary, salamanders were 
found during summer at all historic sites with 
surface water present at the time of the visit. 
Site survey results are given below. 

Kootenai Falls Complex : Lincoln County 
(T31NR33W, Sec. 14SW, Sec. 14SE). 
Surface water present in several seepages and 
small waterfalls, and accumulated at the base 
of the exposure ( 7 September 2004: 14:10- 
15:10). Air temperature 62°F, water 
temperature 52°F. No salamanders found, 
but several were reported here earlier in the 
summer (B. Maxell personal 

Noxon: Sanders County (T26NR33W, Sec. 
14SWSW). Site not checked since 1989. 
Surface flow present in creek. Checked area 
above (to south) of old secondary one-lane 
road in cascading reach, canopy (80% cover) 
of western redcedar, western hemlock, 
western larch (7 September 2004: 16:50- 

17:40). Air temperature 64 °F, water 
temperature 51°F. One Coeur d' Alene 
Salamander (total length ca. 8 cm) found in 
wet rotten wood at edge of stream in spray 
zone below small fall. 

Devil's Gap (Marten Creek): Sanders County 
(T25NR33W, Sec. 26SWSE). Site not 
checked since 1994. No surface or sub- 
surface flow in moss-covered talus adjacent 
to and S of beaver dam and on S side of 
creek, open canopy (7 September 2004: 
19:10-19:40). Air temperature 55 °F. No 
salamanders found. 

Paradise (0.9 mi off Hwy 200 on S-side of 
Clark Fork River): Sanders County 
(T19NR25W, Sec. 20NESW). Site not 
checked since 1988. No surface flow at road 
cut and outcrop; mossy rocks dry at bottom 
of seep (8 September 2004: 16:00-16:10). 
No salamanders found. 

Paradise (1.8 mi. off Hwy 200 on S-side of 
Clark Fork River): Sanders County 
(T19NR25W, Sec. 19NENE). Site not 
checked since 1988. No surface flow evident 
from road on moss-covered outcrops and 
cliffs (8 September 2004: 16:10). Site on 
private land and not checked. 

Cascade Falls (T18NR25W, Sec. 19NESE): 
Sanders County. Site not checked since 
1995. Substantial surface flow in creek and 
over falls; upper and lower falls and moss- 
covered spray zones checked (8 September 
2004: 17:10-18:10). Air temperature 70°F, 
water temperature 50°F. One Coeur d" Alene 
Salamander (total length 6.5 cm) found in 
wet rotten wood among boulders and moss 
below lower falls. 

Trout Creek (SW of Superior): Mineral 
County. Site not checked since 1988. 
Surface water in three seeps of road cut; site 
now imbedded in a forest burn (9 September 


2004: 18:15-18:35). Air temperature 65 °F, 
water temperature 51°F. No salamanders 
found. Site revisited (14 September 2004: 
20:20-20:40). Air temperature 50°F, water 
temperature 49°F. Three Coeur d' Alene 
Salamanders found (all 9-10 cm total length), 
one in wet moss of south seep, one in wet 
talus near road at bottom of south seep, one 
in spray zone at base of north seep. 

Libby (T31NR32W, Sec. 23): Lincoln 
County. This site had not been checked 
since 1988, prior to recent visits in June 2004 
by Forest Service personnel (J. Holifield, 
personal communication), as part of a survey 
prior to highway construction along Hwy 2. 
On 26 June, one seep at this site was dry, but 
at a second wet seep two Coeur d' Alene 
Salamanders were active on the rock face 


The continued presence of Coeur d' Alene 
Salamanders at all sites visited in 2004 with 
surface water flow is encouraging, and 
suggests that this species probably persists at 
most or all of the previously documented 
locations in Montana. Continued discovery 
of new locations (B. Maxell personal 
communication) also suggests the species is 
relatively secure in the state. However, many 
sites with potentially suitable habitat have 
never been surveyed and many previously 
surveyed sites should be rechecked in the 
near future following the protocols of Groves 
et al. (1996). Long-term monitoring of this 
species continues to be merited, given its 
restricted range in the state, apparently 
fragmented distribution (associated with 
springs and seeps), and reliance on stable 
subterranean water. The impacts of surface 

disturbances on populations of this species 
are still poorly understood. 

Literature Cited 

Groves, C. R., E. F. Cassirer, D. L. Genter, 
and J. D. Reichel. 1996. Element 
Stewardship Abstract: Coeur d' Alene 
Salamander (Plethodon idahoensis). 
Natural Areas Journal 16:238-247. 

Maxell, B. A., J. K. Werner, P. Hendricks, 
and D. L. Flath. 2003. Herpetology 
in Montana: a history, status 
summary, checklists, dichotomous 
keys, accounts for native, potentially 
native, and exotic species, and 
indexed bibliography. Society for 
Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, 
Northwest Fauna Number 5. 138 pp. 

Montana Natural Heritage Program. 2004. 
Montana Animal Species of Concern. 
Montana Natural Heritage Program 
and Montana Department of Fish, 
Wildlife and Parks, Helena, Montana. 
13 pp. 

Werner, J. K., B. A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, 
and D. L. Flath. 2004. Amphibians 
and reptiles of Montana. Mountain 
Press, Missoula, MT. 262 pp. 

Wilson, A. G., Jr., and P. Ohanjanian. 2002. 
Plethodon idahoensis. Catalogue of 
American Amphibians and reptiles 

Wilson, A. G., Jr., and E. M. Simon. 1988. 
Supplementary report on the status of 
the Coeur d' Alene Salamander 
{Plethodon vandykei idahoensis) in 
Montana. Report to the Montana 
Natural Heritage Program, Helena. 
65 pp. 







Terrestrial Mollusk Surveys in Northwestern Montana 

Paul Hendricks 
Montana Natural Heritage Program 


Montana west of the Continental Divide 
supports a terrestrial mollusk fauna that 
includes more than a dozen globally rare 
species endemic to the state or the northern 
Rocky Mountain region (Frest and Johannes 
1995, 2001; Hendricks 2003). These species 
are currently included on the Montana 
Animal Species of Concern list (Montana 
Natural Heritage Program 2004). Habitat 
requirements and distributions remain poorly 
defined for all species, as most are reported 
from fewer than ten locations, with records 
often more than 30 years old. Thus, there is 
need for additional surveys to help inform 
current and future conservation efforts. 
During September 2004, in conjunction with 
Coeur d' Alene Salamander surveys (see 
Section 3), searches were also conducted for 
terrestrial mollusk species (snails and slugs), 
targeting those on the Animal Species of 
Concern list that are associated with mature 
stands of western redcedar (Thuja plicata), 
western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), 
and/or grand fir (Abies grandis). This forest 
habitat type (cedar-hemlock-grand fir) was 
selected because of its limited distribution in 
Montana, its value to the timber industry, and 
its increasing rarity resulting from past and 
continued harvest. 

and Sanders) that abut the Idaho Panhandle. 
Survey locations were not randomly chosen 
but instead identified by the presence of 
mature western redcedar while driving roads 
alert for suitable stands (based on size of 
trees and extent of canopy cover). Two of 
the areas visited were chosen because they 
were at or near historical collection sites, as 
listed in Hendricks (2003), and had not been 
surveyed in more than 40 years. Searches 
were carried out when conditions were cooler 
or moister (from rain or dew), and thereby 
when the target species were more likely to 
be active. 

At locations deemed suitable for survey, 15- 
60 minutes was spent slowly moving through 
the site, sorting through litter and looking 
under wood and rocks on the ground or 
imbedded in the litter. In all cases, searching 
was conducted by hand, often using a 3- 
pronged hand rake to aid in turning rocks and 
wood. Target species were identified in the 
field. Museum vouchers were collected at all 
locations where species were found and 
returned to the laboratory for verification. 
Locations were recorded on a Garmin 
map76S GPS unit. Collected information 
was mapped and added to the Montana 
Natural Heritage Program Point Observation 

Study Area and Methods 

Surveys were conducted during 9-14 
September 2004 in three counties of 
northwestern Montana (Mineral, Missoula, 


Five species of terrestrial mollusk on the 
Animal Species of Concern list were found 
during the September 2004 surveys (Table 
1). These included the snails Polygyrella 
polygyrella (Humped Coin) and Radiodiscus 


abietum (Fir Pinwheel), and the slugs 
Magnipelta mycophaga (Magnum 
Mantleslug = Spotted Slug), Hemphillia 
danielsi (Marbled Jumping- slug), and 
Prophysaon humile (Smoky Taildropper), the 
last species only recently recognized as 
occurring in Montana and added to the list. 
Location descriptions for each species are 
given below; Global (G) and 
Subnational/State (S) designations for each 
species are the current ranks provided by 
NatureS erve and the Montana Natural 
Heritage Program. 

Polygyrella polygyrella (Humped Coin): 

1) Prospect Creek (0.6 miles E of Cox 
Gulch Road), W of Thompson Falls, 
Sanders Co. (T21NR31W, Sec. 
33NWNW: 3090' elev.); 8 September 
2004. N-facing aspect, canopy of 
grand fir, Douglas-fir, Engelmann 
spruce, ponderosa pine, mountain 
maple (total cover = 50-60%). 
Ambient temperature = 56°F, ground 
wet and mossy. Eight live 
individuals found under rotting wood 
(10:50-11:50). Also present were 
Anguispira kochi and Cryptomastix 
mullani. This location is up-drainage 
a few miles from two prior collection 
sites pre-dating 1950. 

2) Glidden Gulch , W of Thompson 
Falls, Sanders Co. (T21NR32W, Sec. 
22NWSW: 4200' elev.); 8 September 
2004. SE-facing aspect, canopy of 
western redcedar, western hemlock, 
Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir, alder 
(total cover = 40%). Ambient 
temperature 64°F, ground moist and 
mossy. Ten individuals (6 live, 4 
shells) found under moss-covered 
rocks beneath ferns and beargrass 
(13:50-14:10). Also present were 
Anguispira kochi, Cryptomastix 
mullani, and Derocerus reticulatum. 

Site is farther up the Prospect Creek 
drainage from Site 1. 

3) East Fork Big Creek (0.8 miles above 
McKinney Creek), S of Haugen, 
Mineral Co. (T18NR30W, Sec. 
8SESE: 3750' elev.); 9 September 
2004. N-facing aspect, canopy of 
western redcedar, grand fir, 
Engelmann spruce, alder (total cover 
= 70%). Ambient temperature 56°F, 
overcast, soil moist and mossy; near 
small creek draining from hillside. 
Three live individuals found under 
rocks (10:45-11:05). Also present 
was Anguispira kochi. Site is along 
forest service road above East Fork 
Big Creek. 

4) West Fork Big Creek (beyond 
parking area at end of road), SW of 
Haugen, Mineral Co. (T19NR30W, 
Sec. 30SWSE: 3460' elev.); 9 
September 2004. N-facing aspect, 
canopy of western redcedar, western 
hemlock (total cover = 60%). 
Ambient temperature 62°F, overcast, 
soil moist. Five live individuals 
found in duff-covered talus (12:00- 
12:45). Site is at or near historical 
location collected by R. B. Brunson 
on 17 May 1964. 

5) Ward Creek (ca. 0.3 miles above 
mouth), W of St. Regis, Mineral Co. 
(T18NR29W, Sec.24NENW: 2840' 
elev.); 9 September 2004. NW- 
facing aspect, canopy of western 
redcedar, grand fir, Engelmann 
spruce, mountain maple (total canopy 
= 65%). Ambient temperature 65°F, 
overcast, soil moist, mossy talus. 
Three individuals (2 live, 1 shell) 
found under rocks in moss-covered 
talus (15:35-16:15). Also present 
were Anguispira kochi, Cryptomastix 
mullani, and Radiodiscus abietum 
(see below). 


6) South Fork Little Joe Creek (ca. 0.2 
miles above confluence with North 
Fork Little Joe Creek), SW of St. 
Regis, Mineral Co. (T17NR28W, 
Sec. 3NENW: 2900' elev.); 9 
September 2004. SE-facing aspect, 
canopy of western redcedar, grand fir 
(total canopy = 60%). Ambient 
temperature 65 °F, overcast, soil 
moist, mossy slope. Six individuals 
(5 live, 1 shell) found under duff- 
covered rocks (16:45-17:00). 

Radiodiscus abietum (Fir Pin wheel): G3, 


1) Ward Creek (ca. 0.3 miles above 
mouth), W of St. Regis, Mineral Co. 
(T18NR29W, Sec.24NENW: 2840' 
elev.); 9 September 2004. NW- 
facing aspect, canopy of western 
redcedar, grand fir, Engelmann 
spruce, mountain maple (total canopy 
= 65%). Ambient temperature 65°F, 
overcast, soil moist, mossy talus. 
One shell found under rock in moss- 
covered talus (15:35-16:15). Also 
present were Anguispira kochi, 
Cryptomastix mullani, and 
Polygyrella polygyrella (see above). 

Magnipelta mycophaga (Magnum 
Mantleslug = Spotted Slug): G3, S1S3 
1) West Fork Petty Creek (ca. 5 miles 
above confluence with main Petty 
Creek), S of Alberton, Missoula Co. 
(T14NR23W, Sec. 30NWSE: 4230' 
elev.); 14 September 2004. NW- 
facing aspect, canopy of western 
redcedar, Douglas-fir, subalpine fir 

(total canopy = 60%). Ambient 
temperature 50°F, overcast and 
raining, soil and duff wet. Eleven 
individuals found under wet rotting 
bark and wood on ground, one under 
a duff-covered rock (12:10-13:10), in 
a 30 X 30 m area. 

Hemphillia danielsi (Marbled Jumping-slug): 


1) Dry Creek (ca. 0.1 miles below Ann 
Arbor Gulch), W of Superior, 
Mineral Co. (T17NR28W, Sec. 
35SESE: 3650' elev.); 14 September 
2004. Level bench above creek, 
canopy of western redcedar, Douglas- 
fir (total canopy = 50%). Ambient 
temperature 50°F, overcast, soil and 
duff wet. One individual found under 
wet bark and wood (15:50-16:50). 
Also present were Anguispira kochi, 
Cryptomastix mullani, and 
Prophysaon humile (see below). 

Prophysaon humile (Smoky Taildropper): 

G1G2, S1S2 

1) Dry Creek (ca. 0.1 miles below Ann 
Arbor Gulch), W of Superior, 
Mineral Co. (T17NR28W, Sec. 
35SESE: 3650' elev.); 14 September 
2004. Level bench above creek, 
canopy of western redcedar, Douglas- 
fir (total canopy = 50%). Ambient 
temperature 50°F, overcast, soil and 
duff wet. Two individuals found 
under wet bark and wood (15:50- 
16:50). Also present were Anguispira 
kochi, Cryptomastix mullani, and 
Hemphillia danielsi (see above). 


Table 1. Mollusk species found during the 2004 surveys; 2004 locations are 
where the target species was found. 

the number of sites 


Common Name 

Known Montana 
Locations 1 

2004 Locations 
(# New Locations) 

Polygyrella polygyrella 

Humped Coin 



Radiodiscus abietum 

Fir Pin wheel 



Magnipelta mycophaga 

Magnum Mantleslug 



Hemphillia danielsi 

Marbled Jumping- slug 



Prophysaon humile 
i xx i-i ™™ 

Smoky Taildropper 




Finding ten total locations (nine of which 
were new) of five globally rare mollusk 
species during this brief survey indicates that 
more locations of each species are likely to 
be found in northwest Montana in the future. 
A comprehensive survey to more-fully 
document their distributions and habitat 
associations is desirable; an inventory 
protocol to obtain this information is in the 
process of being developed and implemented 
on Forest Service lands in Region 1. Given 
the limited knowledge regarding all of these 
species (see Hendricks 2003), any survey 
effort can provide valuable information, even 
if only negative data is acquired from 
locations where no target species are found, 
so long as surveys are undertaken when 
conditions are cool and humid, and therefore 
ideal for finding terrestrial mollusks active 
on or near the ground surface. 

The five terrestrial mollusk Species of 
Concern in Montana that were documented 
during this survey are considered in need of 
additional documentation or listed as 
"Sensitive" (reasonably well-known habitat 
requirements, small range, few known sites, 
appear to be decreasing, have recognized 
threats to known sites) in adjacent Idaho 
(Frest and Johannes 2001). The cedar- 
hemlock-grand fir forest habitat occupied by 
these species in western Montana has 

diminished in extent over the past century, 
due to timber harvest and other disturbances, 
and continues to be threatened by similar 
events. Nevertheless, some populations 
continue to be present in areas of limited 
disturbance. For example, the West Fork of 
Big Creek continues to support a population 
of Polygyrella polygyrella 40 years after its 
discovery (see Site 4 above), even though 
much of the area has experienced logging 
activity. However, the area of extent of these 
populations, and the number of individuals 
comprising them, are not known. 

Retention of some mature or old growth 
forest with a relatively closed canopy appears 
to be of primary importance for the 
persistence of rare mollusks at all of the 2004 
sites. Of concern, though, is how fragmented 
many populations of these rare mollusks 
have become, due to complete loss of mature 
forest habitat or the creation of barriers to 
dispersal along valley bottoms and 
watercourses where mature and old-growth 
cedar-hemlock-grand fir forest is found. 
Minimum habitat patch size requirements of 
these rare mollusk species and their ability to 
persist over the long-term in fragmented 
landscapes are unknown. Thus, protection of 
the remaining cedar-hemlock-grand fir forest 
in Montana should be a high priority for the 
conservation of the suite of rare mollusk 
species associated with it. 


Literature Cited 

Frest, T. J., and E. J. Johannes. 1995. 

Interior Columbia Basin mollusk 
species of special concern. Final 
Report to Interior Columbia Basin 
Ecosystem Management Project. 
Deixis Consultants, Seattle. 274 pp. 

Hendricks, P. 2003. Status and conservation 
management of terrestrial mollusks of 
Special Concern in Montana. Report 
to Region 1, U.S. Forest Service. 
Montana Natural Heritage Program, 
Helena. 67 pp + appendices. 

Frest, T. J., and E.J. Johannes. 2001. An 

annotated checklist of Idaho land and 
freshwater mollusks. Journal of the 
Idaho Academy of Science 36:1-51. 

Montana Natural Heritage Program. 2004. 
Montana Animal Species of Concern. 
Montana Natural Heritage Program 
and Montana Department of Fish, 
Wildlife and Parks, Helena, Montana. 
13 pp. 







Plum Creek Forest Owl Monitoring 

Plum Creek 


1. Obtain information on the presence and 
distribution of owl species in NW 
Montana Plum Creek landscapes. 

2. Obtain information on habitat 
associations of owls in managed 

3. Partner with agencies and organizations 
to provide data for cooperative statewide 
monitoring efforts. 

Focus Species and State Status: 

Flammulated owl, northern pygmy owl, 
northern saw-whet owl, barred owl, western 
screech owl. All are cavity nesters (barred 
owls use stick nests as well). The 
flammulated owl is a Level- 1 Montana 
Partners in Flight priority species. 

Focus Habitats: 

For 2003 sampling, initial focus will be on 
low and mid-elevation (-3000 to 4000 ft) 
ponderosa pine dominated (or mixed) forest 
areas. Areas will encompass a mix of 
structural stages, riparian areas, and some 
deciduous types. Sampling areas will be on 
the xeric end of site types to increase the 
probability of encountering flammulated 

Focus Areas: 

Based on field knowledge, forester 
experience, and stand inventory queries, 
three potential areas were identified for 2003 
sampling: Thompson River Bend area, 
Pleasant Valley, and the Lake Mary Ronan 


Survey stations are located along forest roads 
at Vi to 1 mile intervals. Two visits were 
completed (except for Lake Mary Ronan); 
one in late-March /early- April (for most owl 
species) and the second in mid- to late-June 
(for flammulated owls). Time at each station 
totaled 8:00 minutes. A 3 minute silent 
listening period began the survey at each 
Station (per Guidelines for Nocturnal Owl 
Monitoring in North America, March 2001, L. Takats 
et al.) followed by an active broadcast calling 
period. The broadcast protocol used a 
megaphone/walkman setup to playback the 
following species and listening periods for 
the March/ April surveys: 0:30 sec of 
northern pygmy owl; 1:00 min listening 
period; 0:30 sec northern saw-whet owl; 1:00 
min listening period; 0:30 sec barred owl; 
1:30 min listening period. The June survey 
broadcast only flammulated owl, in three 
separate periods with subsequent listening 
periods, as in the pattern described above. 
An owl survey database was developed 
detailing station survey timing, type and 
bearing of responses, weather conditions, etc. 
for each survey. Station locations are 
documented on hardcopy maps, recorded 
with a GPS, and later mapped into a GIS. 
2003 was a pilot year to further identify 
sampling areas and test protocols. Surveys 
are planned for future years. Additional spot 
surveys or monitoring visits were conducted 
at specific sites where owl nests were 
reported by others. 

Cooperative Partners: 

Survey areas, protocols, and results were 
coordinated and shared with Montana Fish, 
Wildlife, and Parks (Kristi Dubois, Dwight 
Bergeron), Montana Bird Conservation 
Partnership/Montana PIF (Dan Casey, ABC 


and Jock Young, UM), Montana Natural 
Heritage Program (John Carlson), Lost Trail 
National Wildlife Refuge (Ray Washtak and 
Lindy Garner, USFWS), and the Owl 
Research Insititute (Denver Holt). 

The Montana Natural Heritage Program used 
Plum Creek efforts (time and materials) as 
federal funding match to support State 
Wildlife Grants used in their statewide 
monitoring program. 

2003 Results 

Survey Effort 

Approximately 40 miles of road transects 
were surveyed. Early spring surveys were 
conducted between March 25 and April 2 and 
consisted of 52 total stations among the 3 
study areas. Late spring surveys were 
conducted between June 18 and June 29 and 
consisted of 33 stations among only 2 of the 
3 study areas. The Lake Mary Ronan site 
was not surveyed in late spring. Surveys 
typically started at dusk and ended between 

Owl Detections 

During the early spring surveys, a total of 4 
species of owls were detected at 20 of the 52 
stations, for an overall early spring station 
response rate of 38%. Twenty- seven 
individual owls were detected (multiple owls 
were detected at some stations). No owls 
were detected at any of the 33 stations 
surveyed in the late spring. Species detected 
included: 12 northern saw- whet owls 
(NSWO), 10 great horned owls (GHOW), 4 
long-eared owls (LEOW), and 1 northern 
pygmy owl (NOPO). The Pleasant Valley 
survey detected 13 responses of 2 species 
(NSWO, GHOW), the Thompson River 
survey detected 5 responses of 2 species 
(LEOW, NSWO), and the Lake Mary Ronan 
survey detected 9 responses from 4 species 

Owl Response Statistics 
To evaluate the survey protocol's silent 
listening and playback methods, the time 
from the start of a survey at a station to when 
an owl responded was recorded. The mean 
response time for all 27 individual owls 
detected was 3.0 minutes (little variation 
among study areas: 2.9, 2.8, 3.2 min). 
However, this metric could be misleading, as 
about half the owl responses were detected 
immediately upon exiting the vehicle. A 
comparison of owl responses before and after 
the 3 minute silent listening period showed 
that generally half the owl responses 
occurred during the silent period and half 
during the playback periods (before/after 
percent ratios among the study areas: 54:46; 
60:40; 44:56). This may support use of the 
playback method as a means to elicit owl 
responses to meet this project's monitoring 

Survey Area Habitat Descriptions 
All survey areas were similar in elevation 
(range: 3200 ft to 4000 ft) and general forest 
habitat characteristics. The primary forest 
habitat in the survey areas included a 
Douglas-fir/Ponderosa Pine type with some 
Western Larch. The age and structural 
characteristics varied throughout the surveys 
and included a mix of early and mid- 
successional stands to older mature stands. 
Canopy closure also varied, but generally 
was dominated by more open canopy stands. 
Vegetation complexity varied from single 
layer to multi-layered stands. Differences 
among study areas: portions of the Pleasant 
Valley survey were on or adjacent to grass 
meadow habitats of the Lost Trail Refuge; 
portions of the Thompson River survey were 
adjacent to the river riparian corridor that 
included shrub and deciduous tree 
components and portions were on or adjacent 
to cattle pastures in the valley bottom; 
portions of the Lake Mary Ronan survey 
were adjacent to cattle pastures. The 


inclusion of agricultural and meadow 
habitats may explain the long-eared owl 

Additional Spot Surveys and Monitoring 

Three additional spot surveys were 
conducted to check reports of potential great 
gray owl nesting sites: 

Elk Meadows (Boles Ck near Seeley Lake) - 
Biologists from the Rocky Mountain 
Research Station reported a large gray owl 
and potential juveniles at this site in August 
of 2002. Broadcast calls of great gray owls 
were played intermittantly for 1.5 hrs during 
daytime reconnaissance of the area on July 
23,2003. No detections. 
Proctor (Lk Mary Ronan) - A Plum Creek 
forester reported seeing a great gray owl 
along the paved road to Proctor. Broadcast 
calls of great gray owls were played at night 
in the area on April 2, 2003. No detections. 
Pleasant Valley (near Lost Trail NWR) - A 
Plum Creek forester discovered an active 

great gray owl nest. A followup visit on May 
23, 2003 confirmed an adult in incubation 
posture on a nest in a forked-top 1 1 inch 
DBH, -60 ft tall ponderosa pine (see 
attached pictures). A subsequent visit on 
June 19, 2003 found the nest partially blown 
out of the fork top. One adult was observed 
in the immediate area, but no signs of 
juveniles were found. The nest stand and 
surrounding area is an intermediate age 
Douglas-fir/lodgepole pine forest stand with 
some western larch and ponderosa pine. The 
area has been selectively harvested multiple 
times in the past. The current stand is multi- 
storied with western larch, Douglas-fir, and 
lodgepole pine seedlings and saplings in the 
understory. Canopy cover is patchy due to 
tree clumps and small openings. The nest 
stand is scheduled for selective harvest in the 
fall of 2003. The nest tree will be retained. 
The harvest prescription will result in an 
intermediate age, multi-storied stand with a 
diverse tree species composition. Monitoring 
of the nest site will occur in 2004. 


Pictures 1 & 2: Pleasant Valley great gray owl nest site. 



Plum Creek 

Plum Creek Invertebrate Monitoring 


1. Obtain information on the presence and 
distribution of globally imperiled 
invertebrates (carinate mountainsnail and 
spotted slug) in NW Montana Plum 
Creek landscapes. 

2. Obtain information on habitat 
associations of these invertebrates in 
managed landscapes. 

3. Partner with the Montana Natural 
Heritage Program to provide data for 
cooperative monitoring efforts, including 
experimenting with sampling techniques. 

Focus Species and Status: 

Carinate Mountainsnail (Oreohelix elrodi) 
and Spotted Slug (Magnipelta mycophaga). 
Both species are listed by the Natural 
Heritage Program and NatureServe as either 
globally critically imperiled (Gl) or globally 
imperiled (G2). 

Focus Areas: 

For 2003 sampling, initial focus was on 
experimenting with sampling techniques at 
known Plum Creek sites or in their vicinity. 
Mountainsnail sites investigated were at Lion 
Creek and Goat Creek in the Swan Valley. 
Spotted slug sites sampled included Deer 
Creek near Missoula and the Thompson 
River near Bend. Habitats of initial focus 
were riparian areas and moist talus or rocky 
soil types at the known sites or adjacent 
vicinity. The focus species were recently 
found at the Lion, Goat, and Thompson Bend 
sites and this offers the opportunity to test 
sampling methods. The Deer Creek record is 
decades old and the exact location along the 
upper drainage is not precisely known. 


Survey methods included a mix of time- 
contrained searching and coverboard surveys. 
Time-constrained surveys were used to check 
under rocks, logs, and other cover objects in 
moist areas within the riparian zones or rocky 
substrates. Time of capture since survey 
start, total time searching, and general site 
conditions will be recorded (air and soil 
temperatures, recent precipitation, etc.). 
Electronic temperature recorders (Hobo or 
Tidbit types) may be available to monitor 
seasonal variations at occupied sites or under 
coverboards. Capture locations, sampling 
sites, and transect beginning and end points 
will be GPS'd. Coverboard sampling used 
40 cm square, % inch plywood boards laid on 
the ground along a transect in the riparian 
zone. Transect length and coverboard 
intervals were variable. Coverboards were 
deployed in late Spring and Summer and 
checked during the Fall. Coverboards were 
left in the field and will be visited in 2004. 

Cooperative Partners: 

Survey areas, protocols, and results were 
coordinated and shared with the Montana 
Natural Heritage Program (MT NHP; John 
Carlson, Paul Hendricks). Plum Creek 
efforts (time and materials) will be used as 
match by MT NHP for federal funding. 

2003 Results: 

Coverboard Surveys 
See Attachment 1 for photos of the sites. 
Deer Creek, Missoula - Twenty coverboards 
were deployed at this historical spotted slug 
site on May 1, 2003. Ten boards were 
deployed in the riparian area below the main 


road bend in T12, R18, Section 7 and ten 
boards deployed in the riparian area and 
adjacent upland forest in T13, R18, Section 
32. The riparian area is comprised of dense 
shrubs and scattered Englemann spruce. A 
recent tree clearing of a powerline right-of- 
way that crosses Deer Creek at the Section 7 
coverboard site has resulted in several spruce 
and other trees being cut and left on the 
ground. Upland forests are an intermediate- 
age Douglas-fir/ponderosa pine type. Both 
sites are in the generally flat riparian zone 
and range between 3900 and 4200 ft 
elevation. The coverboards were checked on 
September 29, 2003. Weather conditions 
were 100% clear, warm 70 F, light breeze. 
The last rain was -1 l A weeks prior. Ground 
temperature was 56 F. No target species 
were observed. However, conditions under 
many of the coverboards were moist and 
several other slug and snail species were 
observed under the boards, either attached to 
the underside or on the ground surface. 

Thompson River, Bend - Twenty 
coverboards were deployed at this spotted 
slug site on June 18, 2003, in the riparian 
area on both sides of the bridge crossing at 
mile marker 27 (T24, R27, Section 12). This 
is also the area where the ACM road and 
County road intersect. This spotted slug site 
was discovered incidentally in 1999. The 
site is at -3200 ft elevation and is generally 
flat. The riparian area is dominated by 
shrubs and reed canary grass and transitions 
to a mature and intermediate-age Douglas- 
fir/ponderosa pine forest stand. The 
coverboards were checked on October 10, 
2003. Weather conditions were 70% 
overcast, intermittant rain/sleet, cool -32 F, 
calm. Ground temperature was 36.9 F. No 
target species were observed. However, 
conditions under the coverboards were moist 
and several other slug species and 
earthworms were observed under the boards, 

either attached to the underside or on the 
ground surface. 

Lion Creek, Swan Valley - Twenty 
coverboards were deployed at this carinate 
mountainsnail site on July 1, 2003; 10 
boards adjacent to the Lion Creek riparian 
area and 10 boards in a boulder field at the 
base of a slope (T22, R17, Section 13). This 
carinate mountainsnail site was discovered in 
2001. Several broken carinate mountainsnail 
shells were observed during deployment in 
the boulder field, on the ground surface 
between rocks and boulders. The Lion Creek 
Trail traverses through this boulder field. 
This area was part of a selective timber 
harvest in 2002 that resulted in a dense, 
closed-canopy riparian stand along Lion 
Creek and a more open shelterwood stand in 
the uplands leading to the boulder field. The 
surrounding forest type is a Douglas- 
fir/western larch stand with some ponderosa 
pine. Elevation is ~ 3800 ft, the boulder field 
has a southern aspect, and the riparian area is 
generally flat. The boulder field has scattered 
trees (< 10% canopy cover) and ~ 30% shrub 
cover comprised of maple, false azalea, 
current, and huckleberry. The coverboards 
were checked on October 22, 2003. Weather 
conditions were clear, warm 50 F, and calm. 
There were several days of intermittant rain 
prior the site visit. Ground temperature was 
57.9 F. Under coverboard #9 in the boulder 
field, a perfectly intact carinate 
mountainsnail shell (no live animal) was 
found on the ground surface in the middle of 
the board. This specimen was collected. 

Time-constrained Surveys 
Deer Creek, Missoula - A time-constrained 
survey was conducted on May 1, 2003 by 
Paul Hendricks (MT NHP), Ron Steiner 
(Plum Creek), and Henning Stabins (Plum 
Creek) at the ~ historical spotted slug site. 
See above coverboard survey for a site 
description. Weather conditions were 100% 


overcast, -50 F, calm. Rain had occurred the 
previous day and the soil was saturated. Two 
hours (6 person hours) were spent surveying 
the Section 7 coverboard area and ~ 1 hour (3 
person hours) were spent surveying the 
Section 32 coverboard area; no target species 
were observed. Slugs and snails were 
surface active, including observations of 
Allogona ptycophora, Oreohelix strigosa, 
Cryptomastix mullani, and Vritina spp. 

Goat Creek, Swan Valley - A time- 
constrained survey targeting the carinate 
mountainsnail was conducted on October 22, 
2003, on the slope north of the main road in 
T23, R17, Plum Creek Section 1 1, just north 
of the removed bridge over Goat Creek. This 
area is in the vicinity of a known occupied 
carinate mountainsnail site on USFS land. 
Weather conditions were clear, -70 F, lite 
breeze. Rain had occurred in the previous 
sevaral days. Ground surface temperature 
was 57.9 F. One person hour was spent 
surveying the area, spot searching cover 
objects, talus, and the duff layer. No target 
species were observed; however, a live snail 
species was observed surface active. The 
slope searched is an intermediate-age 
Douglas-fir stand with patchy canopy cover 
(~ 40%), lots of openings, and a southern 
aspect. Elevation is ~ 4000 ft. The soil 
substrate is a boulder/talus/soil mix. Above 
the site is an old burn area. 

Incidental Observations 

Rand Creek, Kalispell - A spotted slug was 

incidentally found during other monitoring 

work. Observation details are below. 

Observer: Henning Stabins 

Date: September 11, 2003 

Location GPS: UTM Zone 11, 677109 

5347723 Datum: NAD 83, Units: feet 

Location legal: Township 29 North, Range 

24 West, Section 23, Southeast quarter 

Location general: about 3 miles north of 

Ashley Lake 

County: Flathead 

Ownership: Plum Creek 

Drainage: upper tributary to Rand Ck, which 

drains into Ashley Lake 

Elevation: 5000 ft 

Site description: Talus/scree slope below 

-100-150 ft vertical rock cliff. Scattered 

moss and duff covered the surface rock 

where the slug was observed. There was no 

canopy cover above the site. The 

surrounding stand is a young, pole-sized 

Douglas-fir stand with scattered larger 

Douglas-fir and Western Larch. The area has 

been recently selectively harvested. No 

water sources are immediately nearby. 

Recent weather: There had been scattered, 

light rain in the area over the previous 

several days. 

Voucher specimen: The single individual 

found was provided to Bill Leonard for use 

in a DNA genetics study of the species. 

Species confirmation: Paul Hendricks, MT 

NHP, confirmed the specimen's 



Attachment 1 - Invertebrate Monitoring Site Photos 

Deer Creek spotted slug coverboard site, 2003. 

Rand Creek spotted slug site, 2003. 

*.. ''*K$8h3^H 

Lion Creek carinate mountainsnail coverboard site, 2003.